I am broadly interested in understanding how genetics and evolution influence the growth of animals. How do organs grow? How do cells know when to stop dividing? What does it mean for growth-regulating pathways to work at different levels? ... are some questions I find myself wondering (don't you?). I use Drosophila fruit flies as a model, and combine tools in developmental genetics, quantitative genetics, comparative evo-devo, and fieldwork to address questions in growth control and developmental biology.


Population-level variation of growth regulating genes

Genetic pathways that regulate growth of animals are critical for forming and maintaining healthy adults. Deleterious mutations in these pathways often underlie severe issues in embryogenesis or adult health in the lab and severe form of human diseases. An interesting paradox is that these genes, whose functions are necessary for the animals to survive, are evolving in response to natural selection. How do we reconcile that these genes are evolving while we observe so many deleterious alleles in the lab? There is increasing evidence from many different animals that population-level variation in growth-control genes underlie adaptive evolution and susceptibility to disease. As a postdoctoral fellow in the Begun lab in collaboration with the Albeck lab, I'm tackling to understand population genetic variation of growth-regulating genes and how they impact growth and adult health.

Growth and evolution of the Drosophila ovary

During my PhD in the Extavour lab at Harvard University, I used the fruit fly ovary as a model to understand how organs change in size during evolution. Insect ovaries are subdivided into egg-producing strands called ovarioles, which serve as the effective 'size' of the organ. Decades of studies have shown that ovariole number is species-specific, and can evolve rapidly between closely related species. I first identified the cell type that determines ovariole number during development, and how it is modified between closely related melanogaster subgroup species (Sarikaya et al., Dev Biol 2012; cells labeled in red below). I also identified the role of the growth-regulating pathway Hippo in establishing organ size of the larval ovary, and found new cell-cell type interactions (Sarikaya and Extavour, PLOS Genetic 2015; cells labeled in different colors below). Lastly, I investigated how ovariole number and ecology are related in Hawaiian Drosophila, a group displaying canonical island radiation. I uncovered species-group specific influences on the allometric growth of the ovary (Sarikaya et al., in prep).

Confocal image of larval Drosophila melanogaster ovary

Adult ovary of picture wing Hawaiian Drosophila

Sap-flux breeder D. picticornis on a piece of bark

Cleaning up stinky stuff from sponges after a day in the field!

CV & Contact

A list of my publications can be found on Google Scholar. Download my full CV here.

Harvard University (PhD, 2009-2015)
McGill University (MS, 2007-2009)
University of Toronto, (BS 2004-2007)
Awards & Funding
2015. Fonds de la recherche en sante du Quebec, Post-doctoral Fellowship
2014. Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Merit Fellowship
2013. Fonds de la recherche en sante du Quebec, Doctoral Training Scholarship
2012. NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant
2011. Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Post-graduate Scholarship
2010. Harvard University Certificate of Distinction in Teaching

  • Address

    3352 Storer Hall
    Davis, CA 95616
    United States
  • Email

    dpsarikaya AT ucdavis DOT edu